I am here with my mother, my siblings, my husband and my three children. I’ve been here since November 2000, and my life has totally changed. So many good things have happened in my life. I worked at CIWA, the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association for a year, and spent some time as a skilled worker with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and as a Bilingual Family Assistant at Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth. Through my experience, I was inspired to go back to school for Social work.
I am now in my second year as a social work student, and I love it.
In comparison to my life here, growing up in Afghanistan was very hard, because during the communist regime, my dad disappeared. My dad went missing because he was one of the Hazara nation, an Ismaili Muslim, and he was educated, he was the head of his people. Any new regime came, and we were always the targets. At the time of his disappearance, my mom was pregnant with me, and she had another five children. My mom was only twenty-seven, and for me, she’s my hero, because she raised us and she did work outside, and all of us, we were educated. She valued education so much, so even when we didn’t have food, or anything to burn to keep warm in the winter, she made sure we were educated.
She had no help from her family. And she was abused so many times. I saw it when my mom wanted my sister to get married. All of my cousins and uncles, they came to our place. I will never forget that memory, never ever: about a hundred men came and they were beating my mom in front of my eyes. Because they said, “You’re a woman, how come you can decide to marry your daughter to somebody?”
But things got better. My brothers were able to support my mother, and I started at university, studying literature. Then, when the Taliban got in, the university got shut up. Everything got closed. We were not allowed to go outside. So, we had to escape, we had to flee the country. First, we escaped to the mountains in Baghlan province. We lived for months there, in the caves. Then we went to Pakistan, to a refugee camp.
My brother began to teach in the camps, and after a few months, he brought some forms home. They were Canadian Government sponsorship forms, and we filled them out. Four of us, my mother, who was a widow, my older brother, who was single, my brother who was a teacher and myself, we got accepted to have an interview. At the end of the interview, the lady said, “Welcome to Canada!” I’ll never forget that moment.
Roya met and fell in love with the man who would become her husband when she was a teenager in Afghanistan. He was her very first date. They lost touch for many years, but against all odds, she found him again after coming to Canada, and they were married. They now live in Calgary with their three children.